Legal Articles

Curnow-optimized.jpgHow Iowa became the first state in the Midwest to offer legalized sports betting

By Ross Curnow | Hopkins & Huebner, P.C. | Des Moines Office

Formerly the purview of slick, back-alley bookies, the business of sports betting is now legal in Iowa.  However, the path to legalization was more protracted than most care to remember.     

The history of sports betting in Iowa

The saga began on May 14, 2018, when the Supreme Court held the national Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act unconstitutional.  This ruling opened the door for states to establish their own legal framework for sports betting.  Iowa was one of the first to capitalize on the opportunity.

Formally known as Senate File 617, the initial version of Iowa’s sports betting law was introduced to the legislature in early April, 2019.  Though it underwent multiple revisions, the bill sped through the legislature, eventually arriving on the Governor’s desk just over month after its introduction.  

Sports betting on cell phoneEven with the Governor’s approval on May 13, 2019, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (“IRGC”) and Iowa’s 19 casinos still had a lot of ground to cover.  The casinos went to work contracting with sports betting operators or implementing independent sports betting operations.  The casinos also prepared proposals for operational contracts, system controls, and, most importantly, their sports betting license to be submitted for review and approval by the IRGC.Beyond the review of a mass of submissions, the IRGC also worked to finalize the regulations on sports wagering, which, in the context of Iowa’s gaming laws, typically serve as the best source of understanding and enforcement.   

Expediting these tasks was critical because of the mutual goal to have sports betting operational prior to the kickoff of football season.  That goal was achieved at a special meeting on July 30, 2019, during which the IRGC unanimously approved the proposed regulations and license applications of all 18 applicants.

Iowa now offers legalized sports betting

Fall footballTwo weeks later, Iowa became the first state in the Midwest to offer legalized sports betting when eight casinos around the state opened their sportsbooks.  The remaining licensees are expected to open their sportsbooks by the start of college football.

Iowans eager to place a bet will first have to register in-person for an account at any of the licensed casinos.  Once registered, Iowans will be able to place bets from their mobile device anywhere within state lines.The arrival of sports betting adds a new dimension to Iowa’s gaming industry, and so long as participants wager and bet responsibly, Iowans are sure to enjoy this new option for many years to come.